Wednesday 28 July 2010

H&F Conservatives Seek To Shut Homeless Charity Down After Local Tories Were Embarrassed In National Press

I’ve never really liked that phrase about ‘revenge’… You know the one. It says it's“a dish best eaten cold”. It implies a petty, small-mindedness and is often uttered by those with a Godfather complex who seek power for all the wrong reasons.

But take a look at how H&F’s Conservative Administration has treated Threshold Housing Advice - the homeless charity. It’s hard not to reach the conclusion that the removal of all Council funding to that organisation is anything other than cold-hearted revenge that was plotted well before the last local elections in May.

Threshold Housing Advice helps over 1500 people a year. Their clients are mostly homeless people who come to them when they’re in a desperate situation. Threshold have been operating in Hammersmith and Fulham since 1978.

How then, did a small homeless charity upset H&F Conservatives? Regular readers will recall the truly horrific case of a pregnant woman who had been badly beaten up by her so-called partner. She went to H&F Council but was turned away after the Conservatives had tightened the criteria for offering help. The young woman was later found in a terrified state, sleeping in a park. This all happened just just four days before she was due to (and did) give birth. Threshold Housing Advice took that case to the Local Government Ombudsman. H&F Council was found to have acted illegally and paid significant damages to the traumatised woman. This story made the national press, the Evening Standard, TV news and the new media. The Independent later featured it in this polemic article.

I’ve always believed that it is important to have organisations that are capable and prepared to tackle government bodies because government bodies can and do get things wrong. Councils, in particular, can be overly bureaucratic, unwilling to listen and incompetent. It is especially important that there are checks and balances when highly vulnerable people are the potential victims of these failings. That’s why most decent Councils provide funding for outside bodies to act as an important counter weight. Sadly for Threshold, that young woman wasn’t turned away for any of those reasons. Although the Tories deny this, she was turned away because of a political decision to spend less on helping homeless people by tightening the criteria. When Threshold successfully stood up for that young woman it embarrassed the Conservatives - both here locally and at a national level too. Their revenge was to seek to close Threshold Housing Advice down in this borough by removing all funding. H&F Council’s funding for the homeless charity stopped when that proposal was unanimously voted through by H&F’s Conservative Cabinet on 15th July. If funding is not restored Threshold will probably have to close down by this October.

Threshold tell me that they actually have two more similarly horrific cases and that they have been pursuing H&F Council about them. One is much, much worse. If Threshold isn’t here to stick up for homeless people then what will happen to those local people who find themselves in such an awful plight? I think we all know the answer to that question.

I call on H&F Conservatives to do the big thing and re-instate funding for Threshold Housing Advice. Revenge has no place in government. It reflects badly on the Conservative Party, here and nationally, that their politicians are prepared to treat some of the most vulnerable people who live amongst us in this petty and vindictive manner.


debbie domb said...

The local, and soon national tory, politicians use their bullying tactics on individuals and groups perceived to be vulnerable precisely because they think that we won't fight back. Show them that they are wrong.

Join HAFCAC and help challenge the cuts in services for older and disabled people:
See our webpage at

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr Cowan
Thank you for highlighting this issue. I immediately made a donation Threshold Housing Advice. Where are homeless people to turn to if Hammersmith Council don't support a specialist charity like this one? It is immoral.